A young woman in New York who was wrongfully sued on a debt that was not hers has taken action by suing back. And this week, her suit survived a motion to dismiss made by the defendants.
The judge in her case has ruled that debt collectors have a duty to take reasonable steps in performing their work and specifically, to ensure that they do not link a debt to the wrong party.
The defendants are AT&T, who was owed $4,500 on a cell phone bill, Palisades Collection, whom AT&T hired to collect the bill, Palisades’ attorneys, Forster & Garbus, and Transunion, the credit reporting agency. The defendants ended up filing suit against the wrong person – a woman who had a similar name but a different social security number and date of birth than the actual debtor.
As a result of defendants' carelessness, Rachel Lindor’s credit rating, initially unblemished, was destroyed. She was forced to quit Penn State University, where she was a junior with a 2.8 GPA, after being denied a student loan for her final year.
Ms. Lindor sued in New York for common law negligence and gross negligence. In his decision denying defendant’s motion to dismiss, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Wayne P. Siatta said, “Defendants are in the business of attempting to collect debts… They have a duty to make a reasonable effort to get the information right, to avoid the harm to innocent, similarly named parties,” rejecting the defendants’ argument that to allow a negligence claim to proceed would be to find that defendants owed a limitless duty to the general public.
A separate claim is pending against Forster & Garbus under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Ms. Lindor earlier brought suit against Transunion under the Fair Credit Reporting Act in the EDNY, but the case was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds.
The case is Lindor v. Palisades Collection, Forster & Garbus, AT&T and Transunion, Kings County Supreme Court, 2010 NY Slip op 20517